Matters of moment, June 1976

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The half-way situation

We are now almost halfway through a significant year for Britain. The daily media make the outlook sound so grim that fortunate are those who are too busily occupied working on, and driving, interesting motor cars to pay any attention to it. Moreover, the position is distressingly confusing for ordinary citizens, unversed in the intrigues of politics and the manifestations of Trade Unions and Big Business. We have Healey—Denis, not Donald or Jensen—versus the TUC, with a sensible call for drastic wage-restraints on the one hand and news of a few millions being spent here, tens of millions squandered there, on what to the laymen all too often smacks of abject waste—of taxpayer’s and ratepayer’s money. As, for instance, the Swansea Licensing Centre, a nonsense which has cost £400,000,000 so far, and has bogged-up the licensing machinery as never before. (Many local authorities want to retain their age-old right to license our vehicles quickly and efficiently. Having it done by the Swansea computers costs 36 times more per annum, according to research done by Fife research centre.) There are bleatings about Import Controls, to quell the growing sales of foreign cars in this country, which in the Common Market-place should, if admissible at all, apply only to products made outside Europe, surely? It is all very depressing and we who enjoy motoring and motor cars are perhaps lucky in having an absorbing “escape route”, if only it were not all so damned expensive! Even then there are ominous forebodings, such as the threat of compulsory strappings-in, and even rumours of possible legislation requiring any motor vehicle (or caravan) standing on private ground to be taxed, whether or not it is in public-road use. Of the foregoing, Bureaucracy is taking the usual muddled line that those who genuinely cannot stand being strapped to their car seats can gain exemption on a Doctor’s Certificate, which presumably means about all of us who don’t clunk-click and who are prepared to withstand the repeated police-checks of the medical paperwork this must entail; unless big Claustrophobia Victim windscreen stickers are to be issued. This is thinking about as absurd and Gestapo-infested as that which, because admittedly the Economy should not have to withstand losses occasioned by Income-Tax dodgers, seeks to permit the searching by Inland Revenue officers of our homes for “relevant documents”, thereby destroying the age-old conception of an Englishman’s Castle.

Thank goodness there are brighter things to think about on the motoring front. Like proof that a long-duration race can be worthwhile, as shown by the recent Silverstone Six-Hours, which proved, as if you didn’t know, the quality of BMW, and provided exciting racing right to the end (report on page 662, pictures on pages 674-675). Then there is the sign of continuing progress by British Leyland, with the announcement of the TR7 sports car (see page 669), big and superior brother, as it were, to the MG Midget 1500 in which the Editor is currently trying to enjoy some fresh air (he says that there is no better way, it seems, of ending the water-shortage than putting people into open cars), even if the Jaguar XJ5.3C will not make its flag-waving appearance at Le Mans this month. But further acquaintance with the Leyland Princess (see page 660) has convinced us that real progress is being made in Leyland engineering, and, moreover, further significant developments are on the way, which we can expect to give this country a valuable uplift.

Meanwhile, racing of all shades, and veteran and vintage activity, flourish, public support for rallying has never been greater, and, in spite of all the curbs placed upon it, motoring remains one of the primary enjoyments of a very large proportion of the Population. Let Politicians, therefore, reflect that what the human being values, he and she will fight for, and that this applies to liberty of speech, non-interference with privacy, and the right to use personal transport (i.e. the car, which has been with us for over 80 years) on which such high duties and taxes are levied.

The Armstrong Siddeley OC points out that when we announced that they have a source of “as-new” spares, this was an understatement. In fact, they are brand-new spares, as the Club acquired the Company name and all its spares, valued at around £1,000,000, four years ago. Spares, especially for 1946-61 models, can be supplied to anywhere in England within 24 hours, we are informed, monies earned being ploughed back into the spares schemes. All the more sense, therefore, in running, say, a Sapphire . . .

* * *

The Hillman Register is being re-formed and meets at the Avoncroft Museum of Buildings, Bromsgrove, Worcs., on June 20th. Details: C. Baker, 16, Parklands, Wotton-u-Edge, Glos. The Singer OC’s Singer Centenary Celebrations take place at Chrysler’s Whitley Plant, Coventry, on June 13th, sponsored by Chrysler UK. Details: B. Gans, 8, The Elms, Slough Lane, London NW9.

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Congratulations to our sister weekly newspaper, Motoring News, which celebrated its 1,000th issue on May 27th and this month celebrates its 21st anniversary.

Next month Motor Sport will include details of an exciting new luxury British saloon car, so good, we feel from our experience with it so far, that foreign manufacturers importing cars in its price category should take a severe bashing. We hope that the Government will think again about the proposed tax on company cars, before threatening the success of this triumph of British design and engineering.

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